The films of Roberto Rossellini in the 1940s gave new impetus to the Italian cinema. Thereafter followed a cycle of exciting, compassionate, grimly realistic films from such directors as Vittorio De Sica, Luigi Zampa, Giuseppe de Santis, and Luchino Visconti. These films, usually concerned with social themes, were successful in Italy only after they had won a foreign market. In the 1950s, in order to win box-office appeal, a tendency to produce marketable and sensational movies diminished the reputation of Italian filmmakers.
Quality and international acclaim were restored by Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Bernardo Bertolucci. Italian film stars who have won popularity abroad include Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Giulietta Masina, Monica Vitti, Raf Vallone, and Anna Magnani. The Italian industry suffered periodic crises from the 1970s to the 1990s, but produced new films by various masters and introduced an intriguing series of comic-centered films inspired by cartoons and clowning. Cinema Paradiso (1989) became the most successful Italian film released in the United States until Roberto Benigni's Oscar-winning Life is Beautiful ( La Vita e Bella, 1997), a bittersweet comedy about the Holocaust in Italy.
See V. Jarratt, The Italian Cinema (1951, repr. 1972); P. Leprohon, The Italian Cinema (tr. 1972); P. Bondanella, Italian Cinema (1993); J. Hay et al., The Companion to Italian Cinema (1996).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.